This time Ferguson went halfway down the deep-pool area and stared at the deck. When he looked up, he was a national champion. "At first I couldn't believe it," he said. "People had always said I was too nice a person to win a national title; that only poor losers made good winners."
In diving, the top finishers are presented with their medals at ground level, and then each climbs aboard his respective pedestal. Ferguson was so elated by his championship he climbed the victory stand first, leaving a startled official on the ground with his medal. Laughing, Ferguson jumped down to pick up his award. When Ferguson returned to his perch, Louganis leaned over to him and said, "You just proved nice guys can win in this sport."
"That really made me feel good," Ferguson said.
In the women's competition, the one-meter was won by Kim Fugett, 23, an Ohio State senior who said simply that all she tried to do was land on her head. The three-meter championship went to Megan Neyer, who edged Kelly McCormick of McDonald's Divers on the last dive, 494.40-491.10. And Michele Mitchell successfully defended her platform title by finishing just ahead of Wendy Wyland.
The men's 10-meter platform finals on Saturday produced Louganis's third straight second-place finish, this one to Matt Scoggin, a 23-year-old University of Texas senior. As Louganis piled up an impressive score in the opening five compulsory dives, Scoggin appeared out of contention after an extremely poor fifth dive, an armstand cut-through reverse with 1� somersaults. He splashed in heavily for scores of 4's and 4�'s. "When I climbed out of the water I felt like retiring," he said. "But that just made me mad—and relaxed."
At that point, Louganis led Scoggin 266.55-204.57. For his next five dives, Scoggin scored only 8�'s and 9's; his last two were pure 9's. When Louganis could only muster 8's on his final dive, the U.S. had its third new national champion.
Hardly had Louganis toweled off when he searched out Jim Babbitt, his business manager. "Cut all my personal appearances," he ordered. "I'm going back into diving full-time."
The Olympic hero had accepted his losses with grace and goodwill. But that didn't mean he intended to let it become a habit.